Jul 31, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino (center) celebrates his two-run home run with first baseman Logan Morrison (20) and third baseman Kyle Seager (15) in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Zunino Helps Mariners Come From Behind, Beat Cleveland

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This was, in many ways, an important game that got lost in the chaos. That, and people just didn’t care about it as much as they will today’s game. Yesterday was the last stand for the old-look Seattle Mariners roster. Today the M’s play in Baltimore, but it will hardly be the same team that took the field in Cleveland 24 hours prior.

We’re all eagerly awaiting the arrival of Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia to the 25-man, and the subsequent disappearance of some of the less productive members of the team as of late. Even James Paxton will be back tomorrow! This team is changing, and changing for the better. The old team, the less-than-improved one, even managed to go out on a winning note.

Dustin Ackley‘s romp through the leadoff spot continues, as he blasted a two-run homer in the third. That gave the Mariners a brief lead in what was a pretty wild first few innings. Cleveland struck first, stringing together some base hits and a sac fly to score a run in the first. Seattle answered with a run in the second, made possible by a double from Kendrys Morales. Kendrys! That’s his second hit since returning to the Mariners, by the way, and remember, he was absolutely miserable with Minnesota, too.

After Ackley’s shot, Chris Taylor singled and Robinson Cano doubled him home. Each of those two dudes had two hits apiece on the night, and hey look, Taylor’s doing that thing that all recent Mariners call-ups have done: hit the ball hard right away. He’s at .353 through his first taste of the bigs, and while we’ve seen how quickly these guys come crashing down, it’s just fun to watch a prospect enjoy success immediately upon their call-up.

The Indians got three back in the bottom of the third. Chris Young walked Mike Aviles and then allowed a homer to Jason KipnisMichael Brantley tripled and scored on a sac fly. The extra base hits were piling up for both sides and the day was still young. Things were threatening to get crazy.

Young, for his part, looked every bit the part of himself a few months ago, just barely getting by while walking more (two) than he struck out (one). He gave the Mariners 5.1 innings and allowed four runs, so it’s not like he was blasphemously terrible or anything. But you know, maybe in April that’s how we would have described this outing. Maybe the run support clouds the picture. What’s important is that the Mariners survived.

No more runs scored until the seventh, when Charlie Furbush walked Brantley with one out and a runner on first. Furbush yielded to Danny Farquhar, who allowed a Carlos Santana single that scored a run. Farquhar was knocked out of the game one batter later after taking a liner off his arm. Joe Beimel shut things down, but the damage was done, in the baseball and arm senses.

Bryan Shaw came on to pitch the bottom of the frame for Cleveland and walked Kyle Seager. Mike Zunino was next up. He was gifted a meatball, and put it over the fence in majestic fashion. It’s at this point that we should all stop and think about what Zunino is. He made the majors with less than 500 MiLB plate appearances. He’s an elite defensive catcher, at the age 23. He’s leading a contending team with 17 home runs and currently is running a .225 ISO.

Zunino is a strong guy, to a comical degree. His ISO is almost his BABIP. His ISO is almost his OBP. We all talk about the holes in his swing, how he struggles so much to make contact. Well, he’s an amazing defender up the middle and has ludicrous raw power. He’s the reason the Mariners won this game. Zunino, like most players, is flawed. His on-base deficiencies are tremendous, but they hardly matter given all the other stuff he does. Power and defense are immensely valuable, and he’s excellent in those areas.

Roenis Elias vs. Wei-Yen Chen, 4:05pm. And Paxton the next day! Austin Jackson is probably going to lead off. Chris Denorfia is probably going to start in right field. Stefen Romero and James Jones are probably headed to Tacoma. It’s the start of a new era! The Mariners are locked, loaded, and ready to fight for a playoff spot. Tell me that’s not exciting.

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Tags: Game Recap Mike Zunino MLB Seattle Mariners

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